Friday, February 8, 2008

John of Matha

Memorial
8 February
Profile
Provencal nobility. Educated at Aix, then lived as a hermit at Faucon. Doctorate in theology at Paris. Ordained in 1197.
At the first Mass he celebrated, he had a vision of an angel, clothed in white with a red and blue cross on his breast. The angel placed his hands on the heads of two slaves, who knelt beside him. Later, when sitting beside a stream with fellow hermit Saint Felix of Valois, the two were given the vision of a white stag between whose antlers was suspended a blue and red cross. With the encouragement of Pope Innocent III, he founded the Hospitaler Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of Captives (Trinitarians; Redemptionists) to ransom Christian prisoners of the Moors (the Mathurins); it received papal approval in 1209. The angel's clothing became the habit of the order, the Scapular of the Most Holy Trinity was instituted, the Order was placed under the protection of Mary under the title of Our Lady of Good Remedy, and John was the first superior general. Hundreds of prisoners were ransomed and returned to their homes.

Because there were such good story elements (visions, prisoners, rescued knights, etc.), John became the topic for several biographies in the Middle Ages; many of these were loaded with fiction. Today there are around 600 members of the Order working in prison ministries in over twenty countries, and they recently celebrated their 800 year anniversary.
Born
23 June 1160 at Faucon, Provence, France
Died
12 December 1223 at Rome, Italy of natural causes; relics in Madrid, Spain
Name Meaning
God is gracious; gift of God
Canonized
21 October 1666 by Pope Alexander VII (cultus confirmed)

Representation
purse; man in Trinitarian habit (white with blue and red cross on the breast) with chains in his hands or at his feet, captives near him, and his mitre at his feet; receiving the scapular from the Holy Trinity; with Our Lady of Good Remedy who hands him a bag of money; with Saint Felix of Valois; with the angel and the two captives from his vision in the background

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